Literacy skills have actually improved in the pandemic, with children reportedly picking up more challenging books and getting lost in fiction to combat isolation, a study from the UK has shown.

With schools often closed, many more pupils began to enjoy reading again—with 56 percent of young people saying they enjoyed reading either very much (24 percent) or quite a lot (32 percent).

During the first British lockdown, One of Us is Lying by Karen M McManus and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K Rowling were ranked favourite books by high school and elementary school pupils respectively.

A major study by learning and assessment provider Renaissance Learning analyzed the reading habits of more than 1.1 million pupils across the UK and the Republic of Ireland, including 46,722 Scottish youngsters.

The study showed reading skills have improved over lockdown periods, with many children picking up longer books of greater difficulty.

The National Literacy Trust’s Annual Literacy survey of 4,141 pupils across the UK found reading for pleasure dipped at the beginning of 2020, and recorded its lowest level of self-reported reading enjoyment since 2005 (48 per cent of children).

But this changed drastically with three in five children saying reading made them feel better during the lockdown.

More than a third also said reading helped them when they felt sad because they could not see friends or family.

Elementary school children, in particular, improved on their reading levels by focusing on more demanding texts.

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At Scottish elementary level and particularly year two (the equivalent of first grade), pupils were reading a larger variety of titles compared to their English counterparts.

Book reading difficulty in year two was at its highest for Scottish children, who were reading books almost two years ahead of their chronological age.

Professor Topping, from the University of Dundee’s School of Education and Social Work, said: “During the lockdown overall, pupils were tending to read longer books of greater difficulty and with greater comprehension.

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Renaissance Learning director John Moore said, “Lockdown has been difficult for many children, especially when schools were closed and they could not access school libraries or see their friends.

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“Knowing that reading really helped younger children to feel better throughout the pandemic is very encouraging.

“It’s promising to see that when pupils had a choice of books to hand many chose a more challenging book, and one that perhaps allows for more escapism.”

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